UPDATE – After counting provisional and challenge ballots, the results of the election for Horry County Council Chairman were certified as Gardner 12,358 votes, Lazarus 12,160. An automatic recount will be held Friday June 15th at 10:30 a.m., but it is expected that there will be little, if any, change in the above results.
By Paul Gable
Challenger Johnny Gardner defeated incumbent Mark Lazarus by 196 votes for the Republican nomination for Horry County Council Chairman.
As no Democrat filed for the seat, Gardner’s victory in the November 2018 general election is a virtual lock.
Election night results showed a count of 12,252 for Gardner to 12,058 for Lazarus a lead of 194 votes. There were problems with closing of eight election machines on election night, which had to wait until Wednesday afternoon to be counted.
According to Sandy Martin, Director of Voter Registration and Elections for Horry County, an additional 100 votes were counted from the eight machines. When all were counted, Gardner gained two votes to his victory margin. Since the margin of victory falls within one percent of the total vote, an automatic recount will be conducted in accordance with state law.
The election results will be certified by the Horry County Election Commission at 10:00 a.m. Thursday June 14, 2018.
Lazarus will have until noon Wednesday June 20, 2018 to file an appeal of the certification. However, there do not appear to be any reasonable grounds to base an appeal that would need to show the 196 vote margin could be overcome.
Gardner’s victory is considered a big upset by many political pundits in the area. Several compared it to former Congressman John Jenrette’s victory over 17 term incumbent John McMillan in the 1972 Democratic Primary for the, then, S.C. 6th Congressional District nomination.
Gardner filed for the primary on the last day of filing. Shortly thereafter, he gained the endorsements of the Horry County Professional Fire Fighters and the Fraternal Order of Police. The Gardner campaign built on that base of support to gain voters throughout the county over the course of the campaign.
The Lazarus campaign never seemed to get untracked. Rather than put out any coherent message of its own, it seemed as if Lazarus was constantly and not very successfully reacting to Gardner’s message.
The death knell for the Lazarus candidacy probably occurred last Thursday night when, responding to difficult questions from county first responders, Lazarus walked out of the meeting. The next day, Lazarus compounded his mistake by referring to those first responders asking the questions as “thugs”. He next multiplied that gaffe by continuing to double down on the “thug” utterance in various statements through election day.
Gardner will take office January 1, 2019. His message of “First Responders, First” will be the motto he carries to council next year. Reflecting on Gardner’s campaign message brings to mind the 1964 Bob Dylan song, “The Times They Are a Changin’.”